UW-Madison starts semester with UI’s COVID-19 tests


Photo Courtesy of James Steakley

The Main Quad of UW-Madison rests quietly on a summer day. UW-Madison has begun to implement UI’s COVID-19 tests on their campus.

By Royal Shrestha, Staff Writer

With the start of a new semester, some colleges have started to implement COVID-19 testing similar to the University’s current method. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has launched its own saliva-based COVID-19 testing this semester with the help of Illinois researchers and students.

Last semester, UW-Madison experienced major COVID-19 surges that led to the lockdown of their two largest dorms on campus, where students had to go through a two-week shift for online classes to be implemented. During their case peak in September, their weekly positive testing surpassed 10%. The saliva testing method created by researchers at Illinois was able to keep the positivity rate below 1% on the Illinois campus in the fall semester, and officials at UW-Madison are hoping to do the same.

The University’s saliva-based testing is in high demand; UW-Madison paid more than a $1 million deposit to leading COVID-19 crisis team, SHIELD T3, to gain access to reserve testing equipment. In addition, UW-Madison will be required to pay $25 for each saliva test and it is expected that once the transition has taken place, its campus will go from 12,000 tests weekly to almost 82,000.

Akansha Guppa, pursuing biochemistry in the College of Letters and Sciences at UW-Madison, said the rollout has been difficult for students so far.

“Students are socially distant in the testing sites, but test results take more than 24 hours to come back,” he said. “Even more frustrating is that the labs are backed up, and some students have to wait more than one week to get back their results.”

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Similar to Illinois current testing, UW-Madison students are expected to test every three days, including dormitory students and students living off-campus. Much like the Safer Illinois app, UW-Madison has its own “Safer Badger” app, which functions the same as the Illinois version.

“They really are trying to push testing where even last semester, some off-campus UW-Madison students were offered $10 gift cards to get testing done,” Guppa said. “I’m really glad this new testing system was implemented and hope for a better semester.”

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